Much of what we term “madness” is, in fact, the awakening of the “Self” to its own Wholeness/Divinity. We are born totally pure. Throughout our lives we are subject to projections, flung at us from a multitude of directions: from Mom and Dad, from schools, religious institutions, the media, and the medical model. We are all buried, to some degree, under projections, and interesting symptoms emerge: nightmares, stress and anxiety, fear, flashbacks, and so on. These are not “Madness,” but symptoms of health; of a “Self” attempting to break free from lies. The Self simply needs help; by learning the right tools, by having guides and teachers.
“Madness” is not extreme states, but the journey to break free from projection. It is not rage, or throwing dishes at the wall to fight off an abuser, or grief after a loved one’s death. Those things are health, those things are actions towards freedom.
The ONLY Madness is running away from Truth; denying the projections, denying the dysfunction.
“Madness” and diagnosis, as they stand, are but a social construct, designed to keep existing powers in place. The medical and mental health systems, political powers, branches of some religions, and dysfunctional family systems invoke “madness” while stripping free thinkers, rebels, women, and other marginalized populations of power and authority.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
I am a beacon of this possibility. I am a beacon of freedom, having been a sparkling little girl who was later subjected to the psychiatric world and poor therapy. I found freedom by breaking every rule.
At age three, I was a sparkling little girl sitting in synagogue, challenging the rabbi to see a bigger view on spirituality, including the divine feminine. At sixteen I sat heavy in anxiety and fear. I sparkled as a writer and artist, with dreams of college, and yet was terrified to connect with others, and suffered from a nameless, roaming existential fear and tendencies towards self-hatred and isolation. I took myself to therapy, but found very few answers. There was a piece about little boys in elementary school verbally abusing me, yes, but all parts of me knew that was but a scratch on the surface.
After high school I set off for Vassar College where, I thought, I would immerse myself in the joy of the art department; write epic poetry, perform theater, and fall in love. Creativity, I thought, would set me free from the weight of fear, anxiety, and self -hatred. At Vassar, I lay in bed sobbing, hid out in my dorm room, and wanted to die.
I tried going back to therapy, but the suggestion of four-times-a-week Freudian analysis angered and frustrated me. I was barely making it through the day, and was determined, no matter what, to make it through Vassar.
The first time I went to a psychiatrist I was nineteen. “Paxil,” the psychiatrist scribbled down, with very little concern or curiousity about an underlying story. I tried to mention it and he shooed the story and truth away. So, Paxil it was, and later Trazodone too, for seven long years. I could feel a horrifying and uncomfortable knowing crawling around inside of me, something about my childhood — blank-blank-blank — but the drugs shoved the monsters back into their cages. The drugs kept me docile and submissive, a Stepford-wife-carbon copy of my true self. I had deep, dreamless sleep, but could no longer touch the magical spark of the Goddess, shook continually, nearly fell asleep while driving, and felt less and less of myself.
Psychiatrists and some of my family members were thrilled: Finally, instead of being a shit slinging feminist goddess I was … behaving. Finally, they had reason to say “See, she IS the problem”.
And that, exactly, was the problem. ,
I knew I wasn’t crazy. I knew I wasn’t any of the many diagnosis that had been blithely slapped on me. But I didn’t know what I WAS.
Perhaps you relate. Perhaps you’ve been diagnosed with something, and know its “not quite right” but are trying to figure out what is true.
Ask yourself this: Why would you use a diagnostic term instead of “spiritual emergence” or “Healing” or “Awakening “ or “Trauma Survivor?” When we use diagnostic criteria, or the term Madness, whose Voice are we using and WHY?
Collectively we are still trying to appease the powers-that-be, to say “Yes we were mad but now we are better”.
Rather than the far more dangerous and revolutionary “We were never Mad. We are Divine Sovereign Beings, Waking Up to the truth of our lives, and clearing out the suffering others have imposed on us.”
But I didn’t know any of this, until that fateful day in 2005, in Maui, when I was introduced to a shaman and naturopathic physician who would change the course of my life forever. Dr Valerie Simonsen, ND, was the woman who cracked my nut wide open and revolutionized my reality.
I had been cruising the Tibetan shops in Maui with my then-boyfriend and it popped out “I want off these meds.” I had been exploring Ashtanga yoga for five years at that point and had moved to Maui to deepen my studies with Nancy Gilgoff. On my yoga mat and as a yoga teacher I was seeking more and more connection to myself.
I was ready to be off the meds, done with diagnosis, and to figure out what the real problem was.
He dragged me across the street to the herb store to get a referral, and a month later I found myself in front of Dr. Valerie Simonsen.
Tall and strong, with upswept curly grey hair and silken robes that made her look like she belonged in a temple somewhere, I loved her. I was in awe of her, and was mildly terrified – knowing if I walked through the door of working with her it would forever change my life. She put me on a massage table and told me to close my eyes and drop my attention down into my body, and to energetically “see” where my own blockages lay. I began to see the “monsters” that had been under the surface of the drugs, and that they were pieces of stories and trauma placed in me by family members!!! I began to see that I was not crazy, mad, or psychiatrically “ill”: I was infested: sexual abuse and other traumas in my family system infested my mind, body, and spirit.
As both a naturopathic physician and shaman, Dr. Valerie was uniquely equipped to help me get off of medication AND break free of the diagnostic paradigm.
With vitamins, herbs, and supplements we began to heal my body. With shamanic work we began to move traumas out.
I began to understand I was an amazing, whole person with tremendous light and potential. All of my symptoms that manifested as anything, were a literal infestation of other peoples’ drama and projections.
Here’s an experiment: write down the word “mad” or a diagnosis on the left side of a piece of paper. Now on the right side write down a list of other possible words, like “healing” or “spiritual emergence” and see how THEY feel in your body. Which terms feel better? Walk in that direction.
By buying into madness to the degree that we do, we create a collective nightmare based on broken social and political systems. We have forgotten larger spiritual truths, and the fact that we are all, to one degree or another, simply weighted down by others’ projections. We have forgotten that we are pure divine beings, that we are whole and holy. We have shut ourselves off in a world of machines, of artificial social structures with patriarchy and the 1% and the trickle-down effect of how this devastates every aspect of our lives. This manifests across the board from environmental devastation to the broken medical and “mental health” system to war crimes, rape, and child abuse.
We have forgotten how other cultures live, with reverence for the earth and the ancestors. We have forgotten other frameworks of shamanism and spiritual emergence. We have forgotten the feminine.
What does your gut tell you is true? Your intuition?
We created a social “madness” and then we created an artificial and damaging “solution “ trying to cover our tracks.
Consider Sigmund Freud, one of the grand-daddies of our current diagnostic system. He began seeing sexually abused women, believing their stories and authentically trying to help. He then faced pressure from the big boys’ club, got a proverbial spanking and, instead of believing and helping these women, the diagnosis of “hysteria” and diagnosing them with disease was born! Women went to Freud because they had been sexually abused by men in power. The “treatment” of telling them about their “fantasies” and “disease” was psychic rape. And so it continues.
A problem can never be solved at the level on which it was created.
Ask a better question, like:
“Who AM I, REALLY”?
We are beings on a journey of WAKING UP to the truth – the truth of our personal histories, as well as the truth of our personal power and potential. Other cultures would see such symptoms as the birth of the wounded healer, or healing to be done within the ancestors and tribe, or possession by spirits.
In another place, and another time, beloved, you would be met with reverence and respect. You would be met with respect for tapping your unseen spiritual powers, for healing trauma and abuse for the collective, for having the courage to wake up to your personal power.
And I extend that reverence to myself, to you, to everyone who has ever been abused by this system we call “mental health.” And I extend this reverence to everyone in it who behaves poorly, as they, too, are asleep to who and what they are.
Who are you, really?
You are divine in human form.
I am divine in human form.
We all are.
When I lay on that table in Dr. Valerie’s office caressed by soft Maui breezes, and saw the bright blue sky arcing towards the ocean, I began to know: We are infinite.
When she passed her drum over my body and called down the spirits I began to know: I am so much more. The suffering when fully welcomed, processed, and digested over a sustained period of time, can be an awakening to our vastness, and a learning to bring more light to others.
The came one day in late 2005 when I was off of medication completely forever. And another day in 2007, when at a yoga workshop with Ana Forrest, I lay on the floor and convulsed, as the last of the medications finally cleared my nervous system.
It wasn’t the end of healing, but the true beginning of many, many more years of integration, processing, and additional teachers. It was the beginning of my reclaiming my whole story and many more lost soul parts. The death of my identification with drugs and disease was the beginning of the birth of me.
I had tiptoed into death with forays into psychiatry and some very traditional therapists, and saw only my own destruction. So I left, howling, running to shamans and yoga teachers and spiritual healers. And my own refusal to believe anybody’s voice but my own is what ultimately saved me.
We are utterly whole. The horror that comes forth is but the projections others have placed upon us. The “symptoms” are your mind, body and spirit attempting a deep clean of the Self or Soul, not quite knowing HOW. You can do it. You can birth yourself. With the right help, it is but purification towards your most whole and divine self, away from illusions and lies.
In the moment we question externally imposed reality we wake up to the vast power, free will, and sovereignty that lie within us. Old projections, traumas, and wounds can no longer be stuffed down and repressed in our ever-expanding being.
It might feel like shit, AND: it is movement towards greater health and integration. This is not a nightmare. This is waking up from THEIR bad dream. And, yes; sometimes we need help. Guides of a sort. Get support. Get support from one that truly knows their shit, and welcome it.
When seeking a guide, ask this: Who holds you large? Who can see you in your power? Who has the tools and the skills to hold you, and stay present, no matter what, and to encourage you to shed the projections, stories, and lies? Who can help you stay IN Your body, help you stay grounded, and help you through your sacred Awakening Process?
That is a place to begin.
That is the place where the word “madness” and its nightmare ends.
That is the place YOU begin.
Write down the word “mad.” Place it in a bowl and watch it burn.
Take out a piece of paper. Ask “Who am I, Really?” Begin to write a better dream.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.